Army Quartermaster Museum - Fort Lee, Virginia


Food Service Program

Lt. Col. Ward B. Cleaves, Q.M.C.
The Quartermaster Review
July-August 1945 

The Office of The Quartermaster General, as staff agency of the Army Service Forces, organized a Food Service Program which went into effect on 31 July, 1943. Since that time tremendous strides have been made in food service. Soldiers today are much better fed. Waste has been reduced at least fifty per cent. Hundreds of progressive ideas have been put into effect and have saved millions of dollars. How was this done?  Its actual accomplishment rests upon constant attention to training and supervision. Trained, qualified personnel, supplemented by supervisory assistance, is the heart of the program. Capable officer and non-commissioned-officer technicians from the Office of The Quartermaster General; from the offices of the Directors of Food Service in Service Commands; from the many Army-operated schools for bakers and cooks, and leading civilians in the food industry-men with years of food experience, who have been appointed as civilian consultants to the Secretary of War-have done much to make food service a vital force.  Maintaining high standards of food service in Army messes is their never-ending job. 

The Food Service Program is not a generalization. It is hard work backed by years of experience. 

In order to get the program in operation, the Food Service Branch, Subsistence Division, OQMG, was organized. This branch, in turn, was subdivided into three sections: Bakery, Schools for Bakers and Cooks, and Mess Supervision.  Recently, Refrigeration and Mess Equipment Sections have been added. 

Mess Supervision Section provides an "escort service" for food from the time it leaves the commissary to the time it is prepared and ready for consumption by the soldier.  It has handled specific perplexing problems of different types of installations. Mention of a few of these will suggest the scope of the activities in which mess supervision is involved. 

Early last year heavy troop movements through staging areas and ports of embarkation seriously taxed the feeding facilities of these installations. Considerable difficulty was being experienced in feeding large groups of soldiers in mammoth cafeteria-type messes. At the request of the Chief of Transportation, Mess Supervision officers made a clinical study of feeding at several of the ports. As a result of that study a standard pattern of operation was adopted. Central meat cutting plants, central pastry shops, central sandwich shops, and central warehousing facilities were installed, and relieved the burden at each of the individual messes.  Today, at major staging areas, feeding standards can be rated with the best in the Army.

Food service at hospitals must be the finest possible. Sick and injured soldiers deserve only the best. Messing problems in these establishments, of necessity, are numerous.  An exhaustive study of these problems resulted in a manual of operation, prepared for the Surgeon Generalís Office and designed to assist in the improvement of hospital feeding.

Mess operations observed in twenty-four prisoner-of-war camps provided the Food Service Branch with the material which formed the basis for a prisoner-of-war mess manual, published by the Provost Marshal General. Prisoners are not being pampered in regard to food. Their ration has been adjusted to take into consideration their national eating habits, and scarce or rationed foods have been reduced to a minimum in PW menus.  Elimination of waste and conservation of food is a must in these camps.

The Army has also experienced feeding problem in defense plants, supply depots, arsenals, and holding and reconsignment points. These are all classed as Army installations, even though the actual feeding operations may be conducted by civilians for civilians.  Again, searching and detailed studies were made to perfect high standards of food service.

The War Shipping Administration, on learning of the success of the Army Food Service Program, has requested and received help in improving the messing of troops aboard allocated vessels.

Fourteen-day menus, listing a choice of entrees, with a tested recipe for every dish, have been contributions of the Food Service Program to the Army Ground Forces and Army Service Forces redistribution stations.

Surveys conducted in 1944 by the Food Service Branch disclosed that food preferences of the Womenís Army Corps were different from those of men. As a result of this investigation, and in keeping with the actual desires of the women in uniform, their  menus have been modified.  For instance, bacon has been decreased 15%, veal 20%, eggs from 30 to 50%, bread 20%, and coffee 25%. At the same time, many fresh and canned fruits have been increased, such as fruit cocktail 50%, pears 100%, and apples 50%.

One project which has received much favorable publicity has been the rendering of fats. It has effected tremendous savings. Issues of shortening have been reduced in most service commands. Many posts have issued no shortening to messes for several months. Others have not only been self-sufficient in providing their own shortening, but have rendered sufficient fats to meet the requirements of their bakeries. A few posts are even shipping surplus rendered fats to other stations.

Weekly drives featuring a particular phase of messing have been of great assistance in improving food service. They have been given distribution on every front, at home and overseas, through the medium of the Quartermaster Training Service Journal. A few of the food service drives have been: the proper use of leftovers, coffee brewing, attractive food service, preparation of fresh and frozen vegetables, stock-room control, care of ranges, and the cooking of meats.

Each of these drives has a purpose. Each one concentrates upon a particular problem. For example, the drive stressing use of a moderate temperature in cooking meats indicated that a saving of at least $20,000,000 a year was possible when meats were roasted at proper temperatures. Use of moderate temperatures also makes meat more tender and tasty.

Coffee is important in the life of most American soldiers.  Special emphasis has been placed by the Food Service Branch on the proper brewing of coffee. A manual giving instructions for the handling, storage, and brewing of coffee has been prepared and distributed. Instruction charts have been placed on all Army Service Forces urns so that even the greenest recruit can make good coffee.

During the past year the Food Service Program was active in promoting victory gardens at Army posts. The Seventh Service Command, alone, has reported the value of the products raised in its garden as more than $93,000.

The Bakery Section is established for the purpose of controlling post bakery operations through an adequate field service organization. It directs the utilization of all bakery equipment and machinery, and passes on all requisitions for new equipment. This is no small task when one considers the 152 garrison bakeries with a production capacity of over 2,000,000 pounds of bread per day.

The Schools for Bakers and Cooks Section constantly reviews the training doctrine and visual aids used for educational work. It aids in the preparation of new courses of instruction which are required from time to time for special purposes.  The revision of such documents as the Army Cook, the Army Baker, and other training manuals and technical bulletins is another duty. At one time, in order to keep pace with our fast-growing Army, there were nearly 100 schools strategically located throughout the country.

The Refrigeration Section was recently established for the purpose of formulating policies covering the technical control of the utilization of refrigerator space and, at the same time, to develop and issue instructions covering storage methods, layouts, and temperature requirements.

The Mess Equipment Section maintains close liaison with General Supplies Branch, OQMG, and the Office of the Chief of Engineers in order to furnish information concerning requests for equipment to be installed in central meat cutting plants, central pastry bakeries, fat rendering plants, kitchens, and mess halls. Periodic reports on available mess equipment are analyzed for redistribution purposes.

The Food Service Program to improve messing, conserve food, and eliminate waste will continue to operate to the end that GI Joe may remain the best fed soldier in the world. As the days and months go by it will be the continued duty of every officer connected with the mess to be constantly on the alert for ways and means of improving the food served our soldiers.

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